Cliff Hardy’s lawsuit against the City of Tupelo may go his way or not.
Regardless, Hardy’s claims have let the Genie out of the bottle – that is, nobody’s going to forget what he’s alleged and testimony from others about racial problems within the Tupelo Police Department.
In truth, if any competent person had conducted the Tupelo Ethics Report instead of Cindy Brown (well, anybody but George Castanza on Seinfeld), these issues could have been credible and perhaps addressed by now, or at least the city could be farther down the road toward addressing them.
We’ve heard some odd things this week in court:
• That an NMMC official’s son beat up TPD officer and was taken to mental health services, rather than arrested.
• That at least two white TPD officers “could” have been involved in beating a black suspect in the Lee County Jail. This allegation never was investigated.
• That some white high-ups in TPD mistreated black suspects.
• That Maj. Ronnie Thomas was ordered to remove a picture of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest from his office wall, after black officers complained. Forrest is widely considered to have founded the Ku Klux Klan.
• That Thomas and Chaffin, both white, were constant companions leading up to the time former Deputy Chief Robert Hall, who is black, came under his serious legal problems.
• That one black officer, who testified, denied he was drunk on the job when accused by Hardy. He also insinuated it wasn’t the only complaint against him.
• That Chaffin admitted he was unaware of what was contained in Internal Affairs files about TPD officers.
And the whole issue of “professional courtesy” has become a sticky wicket – that although it’s not official policy, it’s generally recognized that an investigating officer can send a suspect home without arrest.
Today, Hall came back to the stand to specifically insist that TPD Chief Harold Chaffin NEVER suggested or ordered him NOT to release accident suspect Jamison Shells in May 2006 after a hit-and-run accident on McCullough Boulevard.
Earlier this week, Chaffin said he warned Hardy about getting involved in the incident’s followup by TPD and strongly suggested Hardy walk away because he was friends with Shells’ parents.
Who’s really telling the truth will be what the jury considers, no doubt.
And it’s been very interesting that while this case is all about Cliff Hardy, it’s really all about Robert Hall, who ultimately was indicted and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor obstruction of justice and another charge to avoid facing jail time, if he went to trial.
This may be Hall’s first public statements about his very public disgrace and departure from his well-regarded status as TPD’s No. 2 guy.
Hardy ultimately lost all his jobs at TPD within months of making a public speech in Hardy’s defense.
The jury likely will get the case by mid-afternoon, and I suspect they’ll be highly motivated to decide something so they can go home tonight.
Stay tuned … Patsy